Granite Peak — A Night Between the Lights
Recently, I skied at Granite Peak in Wausau Wisconsin. The official name is Granite Peak at Rib Mountain State Park and was formerly named Rib Mountain.
Granite Peak is nearly in the center of Wisconsin at the intersection of I-39 and HWY 29 and for anyone living near those highways leaving home, skiing a day, and getting back home is not too much of a problem.
Granite Peak is an odd piece of geography (a “monadnock”) exploding out of the rolling farmlands and is visible for miles around, Granite Peak is not the highest point in Wisconsin (which is inconspicuous Timm’s Hill) but it is the biggest hill in the state in terms of relief which is 760 feet.
I arrived with about two hours left to go in the day skiing and spent that time walking around and checking it out. Night skiing started at 4:00 pm and my buddy and myself were ready at that time and spent the night skiing!
Granite Peak — The Skiing
I found the trails more challenging than most of the other places I frequently ski. Equivalently coded runs are steeper at the starts. The blue runs under the high-speed six seater chair are wide and give people a lot of room to maneuver. So, if you are relatively new to skiing or boarding there is room for you to traverse and room for others to get around you. If you find yourself moving out real fast, not to worry as the runs transition to a very gradual slope where you can restore control and again you have plenty of room to maneuver. Hold on at the top and then you can relax and work on technique and experiment on the bottom.
I did find patches of ice in the top ¼ of these runs which is not an out of the ordinary situation for any of the ski resorts in the region. Also, due to the fact we were night skiing the groomers had not been out to cover up those patches. The solution is simple, learn how to ski on edge and be on edge.
As the sun disappeared, the lights played more and more of a role. I found the trails adequately lit. I would recommend ditching amber or dark glasses or goggles and wearing clears or rose-tinted lenses. The lighting did not hide any surprises, I did not hit any bumps or otherwise oddities in the terrain that I did not see.
As the night wore on, my buddy and I wanted to scout out the other runs and check out the awesome view of Wausau so we worked our way over to the Eastern runs, which are all tagged as blacks. The black tagging is accurate, the runs are steep and narrow so one did not have a lot of room to take broad traverses, you must ski at an expert level on Granite Peak’s black diamond runs. The fact they also turn into mildly sloped green runs does not negate the skill needed to get down the initial headwalls. I found these runs in good shape with little or no ice patches, there are not many skiers over there so if you can handle the pitch you can get some open undisturbed runs in.
This is also the area where you can get some glade skiing in if you want, the West side has some glades available too, but that area is not lit so there is no night skiing there.
At the top of Granite Peak are some double-black diamond trails and these are typically couloirs and small cliffs. Again, don’t take the word small to mean harmless or easy.
With the exception of the isolated ice-patches I found the snow in good condition. I even found some corduroy at the edge of some of the runs. I am certain if I rode first chair in the day skiing session the snow would have been near perfect. After a day any resort in this region is going to have these same isolated ice-patches.
One of the things I like about skiing is the views. Many times I have driven by Granite Peak at night on I-39 and have admired the view of Granite Peak from the road, but the view of I39 form Granite Peak is unimpressive do not bother looking for it. However, the view of Wausau is fantastic, like so many jewels scattered on the floor, too bad I left my camera back in my truck. The best views are from the Easter side (black runs) of the resort but the views from the tops of the blues are very much worth taking time to stop and take them in.
Granite Peak’s crowning glory is a six-seater detachable high-speed chairlift. That lift gets many riders up the hill in a hurry. We were able to ski many runs in four hours due to this chair (we spent most of the night skiing off of this chair) the newest chair entitled Dasher a high-speed four seater closes at 4:00 pm and so we were unable to check that chair out.
The other chairs appeared fine in terms of appearance and operation. Of course, the six-seat high-speed chair spoils one and the other chairs were slow in comparison.
Granite Peak has two main hospitality lodges. The Historic Lodge and the Sundance Chalet. The Sundance Chalet is more of a hall and there is plenty of room for many people and hosts a cafeteria. The Historic Lodge is smaller and has the resort’s barroom and hosts a cafeteria. The lower level of the Historic Lodge has an area where one can kit-up and dekit. Coin operated lockers are available and I found (at least with the night skiing) there was enough room for myself to change and store my gear.
Prior the skiing I walked around both lodges and found both warm and inviting, especially the Historic Lodge. The Sundance Lodge as I note above was huge and more of a hall, in fact Granite Peak’s website offers the Sundance Lodge to groups of up to 300 people Spring, Summer, and Fall.
I decided to try out the food in the Sundance Lodge. I had a chicken sandwich, fries, a bowl of soup, and a bottle of water. The food is standard cafeteria fare and when I left the checkout line I was about $17.00 lighter. I did not belly up to any bar while at Granite Peak, just walked through and around them.
Rental, Learning, and Pro-Shop
I did not rent gear using my own instead so I have no observations to report on the rental center. In addition, they have a learning center at the bottom of their green runs (which if I recall correctly the chairlift offers an optional offload at the top of the green runs or continue to the top of Granite Peak and the black runs) and again I did not go in. The pro-shop is adequately and densely stocked with gifts and wearables (and I did see some goggles there too).
What I did particularly like was the atmosphere outside the Historic Lodge. They had a number of firepits set up and running with real wood burning. Plus this area was also served by an outdoor bar and food service, again I did not partake in any of that, but there were many people who were and made for a lively and very social scene.
The People and Service
In a word, great! The night we were there, The Green Bay Packers were playing the Minnesota Vikings in their first round of the NFL playoffs. The staff at the chairs were thoughtfully setup whiteboards to post the game’s score. This game was interest to more than just Packer fans as Granite Peak draws from the Western part of Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota as well (thanks to HWY 29).
I want to ski Granite Peak again! Skiing Granite Peak will take my skiing to the next level with its increased challenge and I am guessing it will do the same for you. You gotta get to Granite Peak!